The commanding and emotionally charged A Million Colours clearly shows how we can never change the past and how the memory of our lives plants the seed for a bright new future.
It's a story that had to be told and, at last, it's here. It's taken eight years to reach our screens and it was well worth the wait.
Inspired by an astonishing true life story - that of Muntu Ndebele and Norman Knox (the black and white stars, respectively, of the 1976 film classic e'Lollipop - this Canadian-South African co-production tells the affecting story of faithful friendship, undying love and the search for identity in South Africa before the birth of the Rainbow Nation.
A timeless romance of everlasting love
It is not a political film, but, ultimately, a timeless romance of everlasting love, the fragile bond of friendship and belief in oneself despite overwhelming odds.
There is an honesty in its telling and it's directed with passion, compassion and contemplation by New York-based director Peter Bishai (who was born in Canada and co-wrote the screenplay with producer Andre Pieterse), who shows that an outside point of view can make the world of difference in telling a story that could easily be clouded by personal or political motives.
The heart of A Million Colours explores the endearing romance between two young people whose lives were torn apart by the Soweto riots of 1976: Muntu, the superstar who was idolised by his fellow students and school, and Sabela, a girl who was destined to become the bride of a Zulu king.
The title of the film is derived from a touching scene in which Muntu tells his admirers at school that in South Africa: "One day we will not see black and white, but a million colours."
If the heart of the film is love, the soul is the remarkable friendship between a young black and a young white boy during the height of apartheid, who went through their own "struggle years" just as South Africa did.
Beautifully shot by Trevor Brown, the film beautifully captures the vibrancy and earthiness of South Africa's cultural heritage, and aptly pays homage to its title.
Suspense, intrigue and romance
The line of dramatic action is focused and cohesive, keeping the suspense, intrigue and romance balanced as the narrative successfully explores the physical action and emotional mindscape of the characters.
The sometimes hard core violence, brutality, abuse and senseless killing are shocking and bound to disturb sensitive viewers; it's a shocking wake-up call that effectively brings worn-out headlines and tired news footage to a new generation, as well as those who choose to erase history.
A Million Colours allows its audience to be educated and informed in a non-threatening and compassionate way.
Equally, the intelligent emotional depth of the narrative masterfully supports the theme, showing that no matter how uprooting and traumatic the past may be, we have to accept that the future can only have a million colours if we are allowed to make our own choices and accept that the choices we make will serve this bright new future, despite unfortunate difficulties and obstacles that may prevent our dreams from becoming reality.
A memorable and soulful experience
The striking contrasted idealism and realism clash head on in A Million Colours; the collusion is explosive but healing, painful but soothing. The insightful approach of the storytellers and interpretation of the story makers turns A Million Colours into a memorable and soulful experience that deserves to be shared with friends and loved ones.
It is the kind of film that you have to see twice. In fact, once the impact of the first viewing has calmed down, a second viewing will afford you the luxury of opening yourself fully to its impact and tearful resolution.
A Million Colours is a visually arresting portrait with Wandile Molebatsi delivering a heartfelt performance as Muntu, a young man whose spirit is challenged and corrupted. Jason Hartman perfectly captures the sensitive and compassionate nature of Knox, with Masello Motana absolutely outstanding as the vulnerable Sabela. There's also a fantastic performances by Stelio Savante as the menacing Major Dixon, Felicia Nomvuyo as Muntu's mother, and Terence Bridgett as the Cuban soldier.
A Million Dollars is ideal for anyone who wants to escape into a heart-breaking South African story and be moved by its courage and the hope it instils.
Behind the scenes
The producer and co-writer of e'Lollipop, André Pieterse, called in the assistance of Knox to find Ndebele, who disappeared without a trace for two decades. Ndebele's sister (Lindi) eventually informed them that he did not want to be found. He was embarrassed as he fell into disrepair due to a life of drugs and crime. When found amongst other addicts in Hillbrow, as a 39-year-old, he weighed only 42kg. During three years of rehabilitation, Pieterse encouraged Ndebele to write his life story on a daily basis. For those three years he wrote every day, followed by a monthly letter to "Uncle André" to keep him in the loop of what was going on in his life.
As a freelance film and theatre journalist for more than 30 years, published playwright and creator of the independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen received the number one spot for most popular lifestyle contributor for 2012, 2014 and 2015, and 2nd spot in 2016 on Bizcommunity.com.
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